Livingstone Hospital and Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth, South Africa have both been hit by serious staff shortages in part caused by union action and overwhelming numbers of patients due to the pandemic

    Rats were photographed drinking blood

    Nurses have been acting at cleaners at overstretched hospitals where unborn babies have reportedly died in understaffed maternity wards.

    Livingstone and Dora Nginza hospitals in Port Elizabeth, South Africa has been enduring an increasingly severe staff shortage since the coronavirus really began to take hold.

    After months of avoiding the worst of the virus with strict lockdown measures, South Africa is now watching the case and death tolls tick up at an alarming speed.

    The impact on the Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth, where only two infectious disease doctors care for seven million people in the broader district, has been devastating.

    The main Covid-19 hospital, Livingstone, has come to resemble scenes "like a war zone", doctors and nurses told The BBC.

    The basic functions of the hospital have been overwhelmed

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    Blood and other medical waste has been spilled over surfaces and not cleaned up.

    Already incredibly overstretched staff have been put at risk by a lack of PPE, while patients have had to sleep under newspaper due to a lack of bedding.

    Patient welfare has also been badly impacted by a shortage of ambulances, no ventilation and a lack of oxygen.

    In one particularly grim photo taken at Livingstone rats can be seen drinking what is presumably human blood from a drain.

    With key members of staff including cleaners on strike, nursing staff and surgeons have been forced to clean up the hospital, one doctor claimed.

    Nurses have been forced to act as cleaners
    (Image: BBC)

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    Several doctors at Port Elizabeth's Dora Nginza Hospital have been left deeply traumatised after the maternity ward became overwhelmed, the BBC reports.

    Several mothers and infants died in a short period of serious understaffing, when pregnant women waited for days for urgent surgery, sometimes lying in corridors.

    "I was personally involved in the delivery of two dead infants and know there were more," one medic told the BBC.

    "This is very unusual. To have several mummies and babies dying in one week in one hospital is totally unheard of and unacceptable."

    Hygiene standards have been hard to maintain
    (Image: BBC)

    Both hospitals have been hit by both an influx of patients and a lack of staff.

    While comparatively few South Africans have died of Covid-19 – 4,346 – cases numbers and daily deaths are rising sharply.

    As they begin to rise hospital laundry workers, cleaning staff and some nurses have gone on strike in Port Elizabeth over various grieavances.

    This has made a difficult situation at Livingstone Hospital – where there has been no senior management for a year and a half – harder.

    Cole Cameron of the Igazi Foundation, a local health non-governmental organisation, told the BBC that the health care system had "collapsed" after years of corruption, and staff and financial issues.

    Dr Thobile Mbengashe, the secretary general of the Eastern Cape's Health Department, acknowledged the issues while suggesting they went back to years of underfunding under white rule.



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